â€œPeople trust Air India to carry those nearest and dearest to them, even when they themselves might fly on another airline!â€ Recognising from carriers like Singapore Airlines how valuable a differentiator service could be, the carrier will now focus on it. From its grandiloquent old proposition of â€˜Your Palace in the Skyâ€™ it is now moving towards â€˜The Tradition of Warmth.â€™ â€œThatâ€™s why we reduced the emphasis on the jharokas, although they were beautiful,â€ says Mr Malhotra. â€œThey really belong to the Palace tradition rather the new one.â€
But what will stand out, especially on the tarmac, is the Centaur. Itâ€™s a curious apotheosis for a symbol that AI has been ambivalent about in the past. It goes back a long way, and just like the new livery, was originally linked to a new aircraft delivery. These were of the Lockheed L-749 Constellations in 1948, the first long-haul planes that would allow the airline to be truly global, and to mark that, JRD Tata, founder and chairman of AI, personally chose the Centaur as the one zodiac constellation that most symbolised dynamism and speed. (An intriguing rumour suggests he may have been influenced by its vague resemblance to a farohar, the Zoroastrian winged man symbol that represents a guardian spirit).
Since 1948 also marked the change from Tata Airlines to Air-India, with the airline getting the status of Indiaâ€™s national carrier, the Centaur automatically became identified with the new corporation. It was under the Centaur, and the airlineâ€™s Maharajah mascot, that AI flew its glory days in the 1950s and â€˜60s.
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